Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Happens When The Writing Dries Up?

For most of a month now, I've been in an awkward position. After finishing a draft on a book - and getting the last payment for that work - my attempts to find sufficient writing gigs to meet obligations have yielded only few results. (I managed to snag a few articles.) At this point, I'm out of time. I've been met by that raw, gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach that accompanies such frustrating moments. I'm certainly not alone in this. Anyone who has failed to meet a deadline or lost what seemed like a fairly stable stream of income can identify with this guttural feeling. For many writers, this is just a part of the business. Others respond by scrambling desperately for work, tracking obscure leads, and hitting up old clients for possible jobs.

How do you react? What can you do to minimize the those feelings of anxiety and desperation? (Better yet, what I am I doing about it since I'm in the middle of the famine stage of the writing gig?)

Some Reasonable Steps

1. Don't panic! Let me say it again: don't panic. What's the point in this? Yes, you could say to me, "Shaun, you don't understand, man. I've got obligations that must be met. I cannot afford this. I don't know what the heck I'm going to do." Well, truth be told, I understand that. Frankly, I'm right there with you. I've got a house payment to make. When I don't bring in the money it has to come from somewhere else. The problem with panic is that it leads to nowhere. All you are left with after panic steps in is an elevated heart rate - maybe an ulcer - but you're not one step closer to formulating some sort of solution.

2. Stop reacting! What do I mean by this? It is often the case with such circumstances to let panic send you over the edge into a whole mess of poorly considered choices with equally messy consequences. Such knee jerk reactions create more problems than they provide legitimate solutions. (It makes it  pretty tough to think clearly when you're jumping at every shadow or responding to all manner of stimuli.)

3. Seize the reigns! Once you can swallow the bubble of panic and stop reacting wildly to its impulse, you need to take hold of yourself. Settle down for a minute. Do some sort of breathing exercises, count to fifty, or just do what it takes to sober up. When you do, you may have a shot at locating the help you need. You can start using the time that you would otherwise waste spinning your wheels making plans and exploring options with a cool head. If you feel like you have a shred of control you will be able to see far more option than you would otherwise.

4. Pick A Strategy! Once you can stop and think rationally, start putting together a plan. What sort of approach or strategy you employ to find more freelance work will obviously vary from writer to writer. There is no "one-size-fits-all" plan that will work for everyone. There are individual factors that come into play. One of the biggest resources you have - and one that will determine what you can do - are the contacts you've made over the course of your writing career. I'm not only talking about the clients that occupy you list, but also your colleagues. Networking will never go out of style because word-of-mouth is still the important method of promotion used by human beings. In other words, start mingling. Make the call. Make yourself known. After that, you can start tweaking your methods and adding more approaches including freelance writing services. I can't pick your strategy for you. All I'm saying is that you must have one if you want to survive and keep writing. You know what the alternatives are.

In Closing...

Prior to writing this, I think I was in the midst of this progress. I know I've cycled through it more than once over the last few weeks. Instead of continuing the search for strategies, I decided to share with you. I think now that I've put them down in this format that I will start referring to them more often. Is writing this article solving my problem with having no work to do? No. However, I do believe it is more constructive than spinning my wheels and obsessing over what I cannot control. They are the kind of rapid fire steps that may not be much to look at but they do provide a framework for moving forward. If you're in this situation, I wish you all the luck on finding work. I hope you wish the same for me. Catch you later...

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